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Eric Benet happy in old school mode

of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Though Fantasia Barrino made headlines during the summer for a suicide attempt after being mentioned in a boyfriend’s divorce case, singer Eric Benet, who’s been opening shows for the “American Idol” champ, reports that it’s been “a drama-free tour.”

“It’s just going really well, man,” says Benet, 44, who’s out supporting his fifth album, “Lost in Time,” which came out in November. “I’ve been on tours where the backstage hasn’t always been as cool as what’s happening on stage, and this is definitely no drama with the personalities involved. It’s just been incredible.”

So has the music — for Benet, especially.

“Lost In Time” found the Milwaukee-born singer returning home to record most of the set, connecting not only with his personal roots but also his musical base.

“I wanted to make an R&B recording in the truest sense of the word,” Benet explains. “I wanted everything to be recorded live and I also wanted to have those incredible arrangements of strings and horns that I miss and love so much from the ‘70s.

“I think with the advent of technology, a lot of the soul of R&B has been sucked out and replaced by drum machines, sequencers, AutoTune and all kinds of other things that take out the beautiful imperfections of what real recording is. I wanted to bring that all back.”

Working back in Milwaukee — at The Laboratory Recording Studio with his cousin and longtime collaborator George Nash Jr. — was key to achieving that aural goal, Benet says.

“I love working and recording in Milwaukee for sentimental reasons, obviously,” he says. “It’s great to just be around my family and old friends. And, as you can imagine, it’s quite a bit cheaper to record things in Milwaukee than in L.A. and New York.

“And from the second I get off the plane, it’s just nostalgia ... just this rush of a lot of good times, a lot of sad times, a lot of my life and my history. That always helps when I try to get into the creative spirit. I just wanted to make a real R&B record that was like the music that was the soundtrack of my youth, and where better to do that than where I spent my youth and heard that music in the first place?”

Eric Benet performs with Fantasia, Kandi and Melanie Comarcho at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 31, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $39.50-88. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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